Make Monozukuri Exciting!
General Manager, Production Department, Functional Plastics Department
A Departure with No Way Back
After being assigned from his post at the Mie Plant as the chief of the Plant Maintenance Section of the AT Manufacturing Department (note 1) in 2008, Kyodo was disappointed.
Kyodo was a consummate professional in equipment design and maintenance, having been engaged in the construction and start-up of various manufacturing plants, including overseas plants, in his previous post. However, he was now leading the Plant Maintenance Section, which was filled with young people who had little experience in plant maintenance.
Kyodo, who makes it his mission to establish production lines that are stable to fluctuations in demand, braced himself and started by sharing his awareness of the situation with the inexperienced staff. This consisted of three points: “we have targets, you lack the techniques, and there is no escape”. That was the beginning of Kyodo’s challenge.
It was fortunate, says Kyodo. The company was looking for a department to receive consulting services in order to strengthen its plant maintenance capabilities. He was the first to respond, and from there, set about raising the level of the team. Looking back on this, Kyodo says that consulting called for a large number of challenges to be addressed, but everyone on-site worked hard to study and learn, and by working as a team to identify issues, "they all gained the ability to think and respond by themselves."
AT (Advanced Tape) products are a kind of special tape used in the manufacturing process for semiconductor wafers. These products influence the production yield of semiconductors, which are vulnerable to dust and stress, and help to support society in the age of information.
Click here to see the AT product site https://www.furukawa.co.jp/uvtape/en/
Monozukuri Should Be Fun
When realizing a concept, first imagine the ideal situation. Then, iterate the process of putting the necessary pieces into reality one by one. This was the way of thinking that Kyodo’s previous workplace, the Production Technology & Engineering Department, had adopted.
Kyodo says that the company’s policy of “exciting monozukuri” gave him an epiphany. You can't enjoy your work when you constantly have to deal with equipment problems. What can one do to keep these problems from occurring? The answers he found were “thorough investigation of the causes” and “kaizen” (improvement activities). In order to have the team gain these skills, one of the activities he had them carry out was Karakuri Kaizen® (Low-cost and environmentally friendly method). Kyodo continued to make improvements to cut down wasted seconds one by one, without turning a blind eye to small details picked up on in the workplace, like “this is difficult” or “this takes extra work”. In 2014, he decided to exhibit at the Karakuri Kaizen Exhibition. He believed that even if the team wasn’t strong enough yet, the results would surely be evident later. At the exhibition, the members of the plant maintenance team did their best to explain their improvements to visitors. The outcome was better than expected. As the team members explained their work to others, their own awareness and understanding improved.
By reducing the number of problems at the site, they gained more time to work on improvements, initiating a virtuous cycle.
Being Thorough Is What Makes It Fun
Kyodo is a man with many hobbies who says that no matter how much time he has, he could always use more. A fan of cars, he often used to watch races, but now his enthusiasm has taken him to tuning up his own car and driving on the circuit himself. When he has his camera with him, he’s willing to wait for hours for the moment to capture the perfect shot. Kyodo laughed it off, commenting that it’s only natural, but when it comes to his style of wanting to be absolutely thorough and being willing to gaze into the depths, there’s no distinction between his work life and his private life.
Even when he was talking about his hobbies, his attitude about constantly making improvements was evident.
Continuation Is Key
A room called the Wakuwaku Room (Excitement Room) has been established in a corner of the AT Mie Plant at Mie Works. This exhibition room is filled with karakuri mechanisms, conveying the site staff’s attitude that only one exhibition a year just isn’t enough. And of course, it’s the people who had made the improvements themselves who are there to explain the mechanisms to customers visiting from both within Japan and overseas, as well as local elementary school students. It's not uncommon for them to come up with new ideas for improvement while they’re explaining the mechanisms.
Kyodo introduced the concept of "preventive maintenance" into the production lines, and says that he was always in the midst of a tough production environment. Still, he is thankful for getting the opportunity to take on the challenge of what he wanted to achieve. Kyodo adds that he is always conscious of how he got to where he is today because of his superiors, colleagues, and subordinates, as well as his experiences since joining the company.
With a laugh, he says that the culture of improvement has to be sustained. We look forward to Kyodo and his team continuing to engage in monozukuri that lives up to this ambition.